Puncak Lawang, the viewpoint over the Maninjau crater lake, has to be one of the most impressive places in west Sumatra.
The crater lake (also known geologically as a caldera) was formed by a volcanic eruption estimated to have happened over 52,000 years ago. While you should also take the time to soak up the views from inside the basin, this ridge at the top of Lawang village is by far one of the best places to see the lake in all of its glory.
Sheer slopes with thick forests of fruit and spices trees merge into kilometres of rice terraces and fishing villages. If the weather’s just right, you’ll see the clouds reflected in the surface of the lake. That’s just a short summary of the views from Puncak Lawang, the best Maninjau Lake viewpoint.
First things first, though, how do you get there? Is it worth it? What are the entrance fees? And what exactly can you do on the ridge?
I’ve answered all of the above questions, along with tips on where to stay, how to find transport to and from the ridge, and where to visit next.
Check out my Sumatra backpacking itinerary for more in-depth advice on the best destinations and routes across north and West Sumatra.
Where is Puncak Lawang?
Puncak Lawang is in west Sumatra, on Indonesia’s largest island. It is the main viewpoint over Maninjau Lake, a volcanic crater lake which is surrounded by fishing villages, mosques, and rice terraces.
The drive between Maninjau Lake and Puncak Lawang takes around 40 minutes. It includes passing through 44 hairpin road bends known as Kelok 44.
Puncak Lawang is also within an hour’s drive of Bukittinggi, the largest city in west Sumatra and another popular destination in Sumatra.
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Is Puncak Lawang worth visiting?
Exploring insider the crater gives you the opportunity to get up and close with the farms and villages around the lake.
Meanwhile, Puncak Lawang provides you with a birds-eye view of the lake and crater. Visiting Puncak Lawang after already having stayed within the crater really put things into perspective.
Visiting before has the opposite effect: you get to see the full magnitude of the lake and understand how it was formed, before getting to know the livelihoods of the people living within the crater.
Views within the crater
In other words, Puncak Lawang is absolutely worth visiting. It’s one of the best viewpoints in west Sumatra, and that’s truly saying something, because west Sumatra is full of them.
A Short History of Puncak Lawang
Just like the nearest city, Bukittinggi, Puncak Lawang is no stranger to colonial rule. Dutch nobles used the area for their leisure.
The name was put together from ‘puncak’, meaning ‘top’ and ‘Lawang’, the name of the local village. Lawang village has a market and is surrounded by sugar fields. It’s tucked just under the viewpoint.
The name makes logical sense; the viewpoint is at the top of Lawang.
Another nearby village, which is on the way to Puncak Lawang, is called Ambun Pagi, which means ‘morning honey’, like morning mist. It refers to the mist which rises over the hilltop in the morning.
We know already that the crater below Puncak Lawang was formed by a volcanic eruption. Precisely when that happened is unknown, although it’s thought to have happened over 52,000 years ago. This is when the ridge at the viewpoint was also formed.
Over the years, the slopes below the ridge developed into a thick forest, made up of mostly fruit trees, timber trees and spice trees growing coffee, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Up until 1998, people were able to swim in the lake. However, the fish farms have polluted the water since then, making swimmers ‘itchy’ (in the words of a local Bukittinggi man) or sick.
Fun fact: The ridge sometimes hosts international championships for paragliding. It’s one of the most popular spots for the extreme sport in southeast Asia.
How to Get to Puncak Lawang
You can visit Puncak Lawang by yourself or with a tour guide. If you are visiting by yourself, you will need your own scooter or car to get there.
If you’re visiting the ridge from Lake Maninjau, you’ll also need to be confident and capable enough to manoeuvre the 44 hairpin road bends on the ascent from the crater. This is no easy feat, as trucks and cars will pass you on the other side of the road.
In total, the drive from the village at the bottom of the crater takes between half an hour and 45 minutes. From Bukittinggi, the drive is less challenging and takes approximately an hour.
The second option is to take a tour guide from Bukittinggi or Maninjau. They can be quite expensive.
The going price for a driver to take you to and from Puncak Lawang from the main village in Lake Maninjau is 300k IDR (£15), which I thought was steep for a half-an-hour drive there and back.
Where to Stay near Puncak Lawang
There are three main places to stay near Puncak Lawang.
They are all based in the village at the foot of the ridge, at the bottom of Kelok 44. This village is the main tourist base by the lake.
1. Beach Guesthouse
Beach Guesthouse is where I stayed in Maninjau for two nights. The rooms are located directly alongside the lake, with stunning sunsets every evening. I never tired of the view.
The guesthouse has its own restaurant and lakefront terrace, where refreshments and meals are available and quick to order. Everything in the village is within walking distance, including more restaurants, and the guesthouse can provide bicycle or scooter rental and tours.
2. Eka’s Bungalows
Eka’s Bungalows, also known as Muaro Beach Bungalows, is also popular with tourists. The rooms are also located lakeside and there’s a restaurant on site.
The difference is that you get to stay in a bungalow, which makes things a little pricier than the Beach Guesthouse. The wooden bungalows are quite dreamy, hence the many five-star reviews.
3. Hotel Maninjau Indah (‘The Lakeside Resort’)
If you’re a resort person, The Lakeside Resort is your only choice unless you’re staying in Bukittinggi.
The resort has an outdoor swimming pool, so you won’t miss out on the fact that you can’t swim in the lake.
Don’t get your hopes up too much if you’re accustomed to western resorts or the likes of resorts in Bali or Thailand. The rooms are still very basic. However, if you want to stay somewhere with a pool, this is the place to go.
Check out the best options in nearby Bukittinggi too:
- Padi Ecolodge: Minangkabau-style bungalows next to Sianok Canyon.
- Novotel Bukittinggi: Luxury Minangkabau-style hotel in the centre of Bukittinggi.
- The Balcone Hotel & Resort: The best views in Bukittinggi.
- Aur Kuning Hostel: Budget accommodation with a rooftop in downtown Bukittinggi.
Entrance Fees at Puncak Lawang
To access the main viewpoint at Puncak Lawang, you will need to pay an entrance fee. The first viewpoint is free of charge.
The first viewpoint
The second viewpoint is located past the guard’s hut. To access it, you must pay around 25k IDR per person, plus parking costs per vehicle.
The second viewpoint can be seen in the distance
The second viewpoint provides a slightly wider view of the landscape, although the difference is very subtle.
The second viewpoint
Things to Do at Puncak Lawang
1. Enjoy the view
Puncak Lawang is primarily a viewpoint. The view over Maninjau is worth its price in gold alone. The crater lake is the second-largest in west Sumatra, second only to Lake Singkarak.
If you walk down from the ridge and to the opposite side of the restaurant, there are also views over sugar cane fields and distant hills.
There are multiple ‘Instagrammable’ spots constrcuted out of bamboo structures if that’s your type of thing. Otherwise, admire the view from the ridge or take your pick of the benches dotted between the trees.
2. Have a coffee
On the right-hand side of the ridge at the second viewpoint, there is a coffee shop where you can grab a coffee. The terrace overlooks the lake basin. It’s a modern building.
3. Try zipwiring
The zipwire at Puncak Lawang was not open when I visited during Ramadan. However, there is a small zipwire which goes down a small section of the hill. Don’t expect anything exhilarating, as it’s only small.
4. Go paragliding
I can’t think of a better place to go paragliding than over a volcanic crater lake, way above the villages, rice paddies, and green slopes.
It’s possible to go paragliding from Puncak Lawang, but you need to get lucky with your timings, as the crew doesn’t operate every single hour or every single day.
Your best bet would be to go once to enquire and then return for your session. You can also ask your hotel to call up and try to make an appointment if they have the right contacts.
Don’t forget travel insurance. If you’re in an accident or experience an emergency, you need adequate cover. I recommend Staysure for single or multiple trips per year and SafetyWing for digital nomads.
Tips for Visiting Puncak Lawang
1. Take road sickness tablets if you’re travelling from the crater
The 44 hairpin bends between the viewpoint and the lake are no joke.
If you’re prone to travel sickness, pop a dose a travel sickness tablets before your journey up and down to prevent yourself from getting nauseous.
2. Visit in the early morning to avoid the midday haze
The early morning is the best time to visit Puncak Lawang. Not only does it help you to beat the crowds of local tourists, but it also helps you to avoid the thick haze which usually conceals the view at midday through to mid afternoon.
3. Consider visiting at sunset
Sunset is usually another good time to visit the viewpoint because the midday and afternoon haze typically clears up around golden hour.
The sun sets behind the opposite side of the lake from the viewpoint, which should be ideal for taking photographs.
The view at sunset from within the crater
4. Don’t bother visiting if it’s raining
Clear skies are the best conditions for visiting the viewpoint.
If it’s rainy, you can expect little to no view, and the same goes if it’s very misty or hazy. On a very cloudy day, due to the elevation, the clouds often mask the view too.
The Best Tours near Puncak Lawang
Tours of the viewpoint can be arranged through a local guide, which is best arranged through your accommodation.
There are no online tours of the viewpoint available at the moment.
There are, however, some multi-day tours around west Sumatra and Bukittinggi:
- Three-day minangkabau photography trip: includes the pacu jawi (bull race).
- Four-day west Sumatra cultural tour: includes Padang, Padang Panjang, Bukittinggi, Payakumbuh with cultural dances, songket weaving, bamboo rafting, and trekking.
Places to Visit Near Puncak Lawang
1. Maninjau Lake
Maninjau Lake is the obvious place to visit after the viewpoint. Surrounded by fishing villages and paddy fields, the lake is an excellent place to relax for a few days.
Cycle or drive a scooter around the lake to see the villages, mosques (including a floating mosque), local food stalls, and a few well-concealed waterfalls.
In Bukittinggi, west Sumatra’s largest city, there are Japanese caves built during World War II, traditional food markets, and an impressive canyon which looks like someone dragged a gigantic dagger through the landscape.
It’s one of the most popular places to visit in west Sumatra for a reason. It’s also only an hour’s drive from Puncak Lawang.
Check out the best things to do in Bukittinggi.
3. Harau Valley
Hiking, rock climbing, waterfalls, wildlife… if that’s your jam, Harau Valley is a must-visit. I like Harau Valley just as much for its peaceful atmosphere as I do for its incredible scenery and wildlife, so it’s great for downtime or buckets of outdoor activities.
It’s located an hour’s drive from Bukittinggi and is accessible by a local bus. From Puncak Lawang, the journey takes two hours.
Check out my Harau Valley travel guide.
For a full, in-depth Sumatra backpacking itinerary, check out my guide to both west and north Sumatra.
My article on what to wear in Sumatra has a free packing list and tips on how to dress for the culture and weather.
I’m Katie, the owner of Escape Artist Katie. I have been travel writing since 2018, including writing for luxury travel magazines and publications such as Wanderlust.
As well as being a digital nomad who works and lives abroad permanently, I’m a big advocate for offbeat travel and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.